General Assembly Endorses Atomic Energy Agency Report, as Delegates Voice Support for Its Proposal to Help States Use Nuclear Science in Tackling Pandemics
Endorsing the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the General Assembly today adopted a draft resolution reaffirming its strong support for the Vienna-based organization, as its new Director-General outlined a major initiative to help Member States confront pandemics, even as it monitors ongoing non-proliferation concerns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.
Briefing the Assembly, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, recalling its assistance to countries in using nuclear and radiation medicine, proposed the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project, or ZODIAC, within the Agency to help the world prepare for future pandemics “which will surely come”. Introducing the Agency’s annual report, transmitted through a note from the Secretary‑General (document A/75/303), he said the project would encompass a global network of national diagnostic laboratories for the monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Member States will gain access to nuclear or nuclear-derived equipment, technology packages, expertise, guidance and training, while decision makers will receive up-to-date information enabling them to act quickly. Noting that the Agency will work closely with other United Nations entities, he encouraged all States to support the initiative.
Turning to non-proliferation issues, he said that he reports regularly to the IAEA Board of Governors on Iran’s implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. At the same time, the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of Iran’s declared nuclear material and evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Recalling his visit in August, when he met with President Hassan Rouhani and senior officials, he said an agreement was to resolve some safeguards implementation issues. On the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said its activities — in violation of Security Council resolutions — remain a serious concern. He called upon Pyongyang to fully comply with its obligations, cooperate promptly with the Agency and resolve all outstanding issues, “especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country”.
Adopting without a vote the draft resolution “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency” (document A/75/L.9), introduced by Canada’s delegate, the Assembly took note of several resolutions approved by the Agency, including texts on the COVID‑19 pandemic, the implementation of the IAEA agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the application of nuclear safeguards in the Middle East.
The 193‑nation Assembly also reaffirmed its strong support for the Agency’s indispensable role in encouraging and assisting the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, in technology transfer to developing countries and in nuclear safety, verification and security.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates hailed the IAEA response to the pandemic and the support the Agency is giving to Member States to confront COVID‑19. They also stressed the role that nuclear energy can play in tackling climate change and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Many also raised their countries’ ongoing concerns with nuclear programmes in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The European Union’s representative reiterated the bloc’s regret over the United States 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action, and members’ grave concern about Iran’s continued enrichment activities, which now surpass limits set in that agreement. Expressing similar concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme, she urged Pyongyang to take steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
Iran’s delegate said that the United States withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action and its reimposition of illegal sanctions are preventing his country from enjoying its rights under Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). As for cooperation with the Agency, Iran alone receives 22 per cent of all IAEA inspections and continues to carry out its verification activities, even during the pandemic.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s representative said that since his country is not an IAEA member, his delegation does not care what is discussed at the Agency’s meetings, let alone its reports. The Agency is no more than a political tool of Western countries, he said, adding that his country will never deal with IAEA so long as the Agency dances to the tune of hostile forces.
Indonesia’s representative welcomed the launch of the ZODIAC initiative, saying that it will strengthen the world’s ability to detect and respond to future pandemics. He also emphasized the role that nuclear technology plays in food security, including by increasing rice and soybean production, and praised the IAEA Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution programme.
South Africa’s representative, whose country remains the only one in the world to voluntarily renounce its nuclear programme, said that several African countries are embarking on the atomic energy path. Recalling IAEA support for infrastructure, training and capacity-building, he also noted the Agency’s role in supporting the creation of Africa’s first vector mosquito-rearing facility to fight the spread of malaria.
Japan’s representative called for the verifiable dismantlement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, adding that all Member States must implement relevant Security Council resolutions. He also urged Iran to abide by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action and cooperate fully with IAEA.
The Republic of Korea’s delegate noted ongoing IAEA efforts to maintain and enhance its readiness to verify the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme once a political agreement is forged among relevant parties.
The representative of Belarus said that her country has hosted seven IAEA missions related to the construction of power plants and that it is fully implementing related recommendations.
Lithuania’s representative condemned a decision by neighbouring Belarus to build a nuclear power plant near Vilnius, her country’s capital. She urged Belarus to suspend its launch and to immediately implement all recommendations from international experts.
Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Argentina, Cuba, Monaco, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ukraine, China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Australia and Syria.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran and Lithuania spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 November, to elect five judges to the International Court of Justice, concurrently with the Security Council.
Introduction of Report by International Atomic Energy Agency
RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a pre‑recorded video, introduced its annual report as transmitted to the Assembly in a note from the Secretary‑General (document A/75/303), explaining that, despite the COVID‑19 pandemic, it has continued to implement safeguards worldwide to prevent the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities. Citing several activities, he said the Agency also launched the biggest operation in its history to help countries confront the novel coronavirus, delivering nearly 1,500 consignments of virus detection and diagnosis equipment and other supplies to some 125 countries. An IAEA survey meanwhile revealed that the pandemic is disrupting the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses, putting lives at risk. Diagnostic procedures fell, on average, by more than half in the 72 countries surveyed, he said, adding that low‑income countries are particularly at risk.
Recalling that IAEA helps countries to use nuclear and radiation medicine to detect and treat cancers and manage cardiovascular diseases, he proposed the establishment of the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project, or ZODIAC, within the Agency to help the world prepare for future pandemics “which will surely come”. It would establish a global network of national diagnostic laboratories for the monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Member States will have access to nuclear or nuclear‑derived equipment, technology packages, expertise, guidance and training, he said, adding that decision makers will receive up‑to‑date, user‑friendly information that will enable them to act quickly. “I encourage all countries to support this important initiative,” he said, noting that the Agency will work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health, among others.
Turning to the implementation of nuclear safeguards, he said that the Agency is continuing to carry out its most time‑critical verification work in the field, while rescheduling some less urgent activities. A total of 184 countries now have safeguards agreements in force, with 136 of them also having additional protocols in place. He said that he reports regularly to IAEA Board of Governors on Iran’s implementation of the nuclear‑related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on its nuclear programme, and that the Agency is continuing to verify the non‑diversion of nuclear material declared by Tehran under its safeguards agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran also continue. He recalled that he travelled to Iran in August for discussions with President Hassan Rouhani and senior officials, reaching agreement with them to resolve some safeguards implementation issues, including access by IAEA inspectors to two locations. Inspections have since taken place at both locations and environmental samples are being analysed.
The activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remain a cause for serious concern, he said, emphasizing that its nuclear programme is “deeply regrettable” and a clear violation of relevant Security Council resolutions. He called upon Pyongyang to fully comply with its obligations under those resolutions, cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its safeguards agreement under the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and resolve all outstanding issues, “especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country”.
Recalling his participation at the twenty‑fifth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Madrid in December, he said that nuclear power is part of the solution to the climate crisis. “I am keen to ensure that the Agency’s voice is heard on the great benefits of nuclear power,” he said, saying that the 443 nuclear power reactors operating in 32 countries today account for 390 gigawatts of installed capacity, more than 10 per cent of the world’s electricity, but around one third of all low‑carbon electricity. “Without nuclear power, global CO2 emissions would be considerably higher,” he said, adding that 54 reactors under construction in 19 countries are expected to provide 57 gigawatts of additional capacity. At the same time, almost all countries are voluntarily using IAEA safety standards to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. He went on to spotlight his efforts to achieve gender parity among the Agency’s professional and higher staff categories and the launch of the IAEA Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship Programme that will support women studying for master’s degrees in nuclear science and technology, safety, security or non‑proliferation.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada), introducing the draft resolution “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency” (document A/75/L.9), said the text reaffirms the international community’s strong support for the indispensable roles IAEA plays in the practical application of nuclear science for peaceful uses and in establishing safety standards. Highlighting that “L.9” takes note of decisions made at the IAEA general conference’s sixty‑fourth session, he expressed hope that it will be adopted by consensus.
NATACHA TOLSTOY of the European Union reaffirmed the bloc’s resolute commitment to the Joint Plan of Action, unanimously endorsed by Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). Expressing regret over the United States withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action and its reimposition of sanctions, she called on all States to refrain from taking actions that impede the agreement’s implementation. The European Union remains gravely concerned about Iran’s continued enrichment activities in Fordow, expansion of centrifuge research and development and its continued accumulation of low‑enriched uranium - now more than tenfold in excess of the Joint Plan of Action limit. “We strongly urge Iran to refrain from any further actions that are inconsistent with its Joint Plan of Action commitments and return to full implementation without delay,” she said. Expressing concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme, she urged Pyongyang to take steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. The European Union remains a major donor to IAEA Nuclear Security Fund and supports other international initiatives that contribute to strengthening security. From 2014 to 2020, the bloc dedicated more than €145 million to the regional Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Centres of Excellence initiative and €25 million towards establishing IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Bank.
BASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), rejecting suggestions that IAEA is only a watchdog, called for strengthening the Agency’s role in facilitating the technological transfer and peaceful uses of atomic energy. IAEA can play an important development role in African countries and members of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, he said, expressing support for voluntary donations to the Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund. However, safeguard systems should not lead to commitments that restrict States’ rights. Turning to the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, he said the conference on the issue, held in December, provided encouraging results.
TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus) said nuclear science and technology are critical, pointing to the Agency’s role in supporting capacity‑building for States in their coronavirus detection efforts. Nuclear energy can ensure reliable and affordable low‑carbon energy production, and in Belarus, IAEA is necessary to ensure the security of its nuclear zone. Belarus has hosted seven IAEA missions related to the construction of power plants and is fully implementing related recommendations. The Agency also plays an important role in such areas as human resources development, fighting cancer, supporting food security and protecting the environment, she said, expressing full support for IAEA safeguards system and its further improvement.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that, since his country is not a member of IAEA, his delegation does not care what is discussed at the Agency’s meetings, let alone its report. Absurd remarks made at the United Nations are based on guesswork and fabrication. The Agency is no more than a political tool of Western countries, he said, adding that Pyongyang has never forgotten its despicable act of siding with hostile forces. As such, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will never have any dealings with IAEA so long as the Agency dances to the tune of those who are hostile against it.
MAJID MOHAMMAD ABDULRAHMAN MOHAMMAD ALMUTAWA (United Arab Emirates) said IAEA plays a central role in helping Member States benefit from the diverse uses of nuclear energy. The Barakah power plant, now online, is the first such plant in the Arab world, allowing the United Arab Emirates to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to support sustainable development in line with transparency and nuclear safety standards. Highlighting the Agency’s help in creating infrastructure for capacity building, he said the United Arab Emirates uses of radiation in medicine and its strengthening of women’s participation in this field.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said the design and implementation of IAEA safeguards must comply with the inalienable rights of Non‑Proliferation Treaty States parties without hampering their economic or technological development. Moreover, concerns related to nuclear proliferation should not restrict those rights. The United States withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action in 2018 and reimposition of illegal sanctions have impeded Iran from enjoying its rights under Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). As for cooperation with the Agency, Iran alone receives 22 per cent of all IAEA inspections and continues to carry out its verification activities, even during the pandemic. Turning to concerns in the region, he said Saudi Arabia should act in a transparent manner and allow IAEA to verify all nuclear‑related activities and called on the Agency to take an unbiased approach to Israel, which has refused to adhere to its safeguards.
VIDISHA MAITRA (India) highlighted the Agency’s critical role in supporting Member States as they pursue nuclear power and its application in other domains, including food, water management, health and the environment. Expressing appreciation for IAEA support for business continuity even during the pandemic, she said India hosted four Agency teams during this period and continues to undertake such activities as training programmes in the use of radiation detection instruments. Nuclear power also remains an important option in addressing energy demand and fuel prices. For its part, India has demonstrated its collaborative spirit by placing 3 more facilities under IAEA safeguards since December, bringing the total to 29, and has recently achieved progress on its first indigenous pressurized heavy water reactor, the forerunner of another 15 reactors.
ALICIA BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) underscored the Agency’s role in upholding international peace and security. She took note of the Agency’s activities in 2019, the fruitful efforts of its Secretariat and the results of the sixty‑third annual regular session of IAEA General Conference, chaired by Mexico. She also emphasized the practical use of science and nuclear technology to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the ways they can help to tackle disease and climate change. In that regard, she noted the Agency’s assistance to Mexico in such areas as cancer treatment, the eradication of dengue fever and improving agricultural yields.
Mr. LIM (Singapore) said IAEA has earned a high degree of trust from Member States. Calling on all States parties to fulfill their obligations under international instruments and to ensure the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he commended the Agency for its efforts to conduct safeguards verification effectively, even during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It has continued to assist Member States in building valuable capacities during this time, including the capacity to detect viral pathogens, he observed. As such, Singapore will continue its strong cooperation with the Agency as well as all Member States in order to build a culture of trust and safety in this area.
GLORIA CORINA PETER TIWET (Malaysia) recalled that IAEA is the sole competent authority mandated to verify State compliance with safeguards obligations. As a member of the Agency’s board of governors, Malaysia will continue to support its important role in facilitating access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology for States while ensuring that the highest level of nuclear safety, security and safeguards are observed, she said.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) noted in the 70 years since initiating its nuclear activities, her country has developed a programme in line with the nuclear fuel cycle and become a reliable exporter of technologies for peaceful needs. Argentina’s nuclear sector adheres to IAEA international safeguards and verification system, she said, reiterating the importance of implementing efficient, effective and supportive safeguards that are non‑discriminatory. Citing the Quadripartite Agreement between Argentina, Brazil, the Brazilian‑Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials and IAEA, she stressed the relevance of the bilateral inspections framework in building trust with Brazil in that domain. Noting that Argentina will continue to expand its generation of nuclear energy in line with the standards of the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety, she underscored that nuclear physical security is the sovereign right of every State.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) underscored IAEA’s leadership role in addressing the pandemic, international peace and security concerns, and sustainable development. Its technical cooperation programme should be provided with increased resources, with priority focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He emphasized the inalienable right of all States to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, cautioning against placing any restrictions on technology transfers to developing countries. Underscoring Cuba’s support for a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, he criticized the United States’ withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action and its reimposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran. That unjustifiable decision violates international law and risks serious consequences for security and stability, he said.
CÉDRIC BRAQUETTI (Monaco) expressed support for the IAEA Director General’s work, noting that the development of civil nuclear cooperation is one of the fundamental pillars of the nuclear Non‑Proliferation Treaty. In many fields, these technologies play a key role in improving well‑being, he said, highlighting health care and environmental protection in this regard. Nuclear technology also plays a role in medical diagnoses and treatments. In 2019, Monaco launched a digital medical care service based on new technologies in cardiology and other fields, he reported. Turning to the environment, he spotlighted the use of isotopic technologies in research on the impact of environmental contaminants and greenhouse gases. This research can allow leaders to take science‑based decisions on climate change. “Science is our weapon against skepticism and disinformation,” he said, adding: “Let’s use it and let’s support it.”
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), noting the Agency’s assistance to strengthening the capacity of State laboratories to respond to COVID‑19, welcomed its provision of reverse transcription‑polymerase chain reaction equipment to increase testing capacity in Indonesia. He also welcomed the launch of the Zoonotic Diseases Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative to strengthen global preparedness and capabilities to detect and respond to future pandemics. Indonesia is also working closely with IAEA to promote the use of nuclear science and technology for development, he reported. In the agriculture sector, nuclear technology has played an important role in strengthening national food security, including by increasing the production of rice and soybeans. In the health sector, Indonesia is collaborating with the Agency on the development of cancer therapy and radiopharmaceuticals. As for the use of nuclear technology to address environmental problems, he welcomed the Agency’s Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution programme.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) noted that several African countries have decided to embark on the nuclear energy path, recalling IAEA’s support for infrastructure, training and capacity‑building. South Africa has established the continent’s first vector mosquito‑rearing facility with IAEA support, aiming to eliminate malaria within its borders. Pointing to Africa’s only working nuclear power plant, Koeberg near Capetown, he said IAEA will help South Africa build more plants as part of its energy plan for the next decade. The Agency has assisted 126 Member States – 44 in Africa – in rapid detection of COVID‑19, a practical illustration of the IAEA motto, “Atoms for peace and development”. South Africa is the only country in the world to have voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, and IAEA has consistently verified the peaceful nature of its programme. Stressing that the safeguards system must be consistently strengthened, he expressed concern that some States are developing nuclear programmes without a strong safeguards regime, calling on all members of IAEA outside the nuclear Non‑Proliferation Treaty to join without delay.
NAMAZU HIROYUKI (Japan) expressed strong support for the Director General’s initiatives, including to improve States’ capabilities for dealing with COVID‑19. Japan also strongly supports the Agency’s efforts to make the safeguards regime more effective and efficient. He underscored IAEA’s critical role in addressing non‑proliferation issues, emphasizing the importance of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Turning to pressing issues, he said Japan remains deeply concerned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile programme and calls for its verifiable dismantlement. It is critically important that all Member States implement relevant Security Council resolutions. He added that as a supporter of the Joint Plan of Action, Japan is deeply concerned over steps being taken by Iran that risk undermining that agreement. Iran must abide by its commitments and cooperate fully with IAEA. He went on to say that the postponement of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty review conference due to the pandemic by no means undermines the urgency of issues related to nuclear weapons.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said his delegation has co-sponsored the draft resolution under consideration. Expressing hope that the next nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference will be held in August 2021, he recalled IAEA’s effective role in implementing that instrument. The mere existence of nuclear weapons threatens humanity, he said, emphasizing Ecuador’s support for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this regard, he cited the use of such technology in medical and natural disaster prevention spheres as well as towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ecuador is one of the main producers of tropical fruit and has used environmentally friendly nuclear energy technology to boost exports using the sterile insect technique, based on the Agency’s technical assistance. He also expressed gratitude for the Agency’s provision of equipment and kits to detect COVID‑19 and stop its spread.
SERGIO MANRIQUE TREJO BLANCO (El Salvador) thanked IAEA for its assistance to El Salvador in addressing the pandemic and welcomed the Agency’s efforts to strengthen national capacities to deal with threat of zoonotic diseases. El Salvador hopes to take part in the IAEA Marie Curie Fellowship Programme by promoting the important role of women in nuclear science and technology. Expressing appreciation for the Agency’s provision of kits and equipment to address COVID‑19, he called on countries to join IAEA efforts to facilitate the use of nuclear energy in health‑care coverage and food provision, and efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.
AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, encouraged countries embarking on nuclear power programmes to proceed in a safe, secure and sustainable way. She therefore strongly condemned the decision by neighbour Belarus to build a nuclear power plant near Vilnius without a proper consultative process or adequate evaluations. Belarus has failed to comply with international obligations and has violated the United Nations Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. While IAEA review missions identified numerous recommendations to strengthen nuclear safety, Belarus has failed to do so, further aggravating the situation on 3 November by producing the first electricity supplies at the plant. These actions pose an unacceptable threat to national security, the environment and the public health of Belarus and neighbouring countries. Urging Belarus to suspend the launch of its nuclear power plant, immediately implement all recommendations of international experts and ensure compliance with the highest standards, she said the Agency’s role in ensuring safety worldwide must be strengthened.
YONG JIN BAEK (Republic of Korea), noting that IAEA is helping States respond to the COVID‑19 pandemic, urged all Member States which have not done so to join the Convention on Nuclear Safety. He summarized his country’s efforts to adopt the highest possible safety standards, including through the incorporation of artificial intelligence and big‑data technology in its nuclear facilities. He commended IAEA for its thorough, professional and impartial monitoring and verification of Iran’s nuclear commitments, also noting its ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance its readiness to verify the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme once a political agreement is reached among relevant parties.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) observed that the balance between conceptual development and practical safeguards implementation is achieved by establishing a State-level concept. Ukraine has its own experience of implementing a State-level concept and his delegation is confident that this system effectively underpins the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He reported that, for the seventh consecutive year, the Ukrainian peninsula, Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, have been occupied by the Russian Federation — a nuclear-weapon State, which is also continuing its military aggression in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. As a result, IAEA inspectors cannot access locations where nuclear material is stored in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and thus, the Russian Federation’s aggression inevitably requires reassessing the qualitative component of the State-level concept. “The ongoing transformation of Crimea into a huge military base may indicate the possibility of deploying nuclear capabilities on the occupied peninsula,” he observed, adding that this would undermine Ukraine’s non-nuclear-weapon status. Unfortunately, no metric assesses the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards regarding nuclear material located in occupied territories in Ukraine or elsewhere. Turning to the Chernobyl disaster, he called for the issue to remain on the Agency’s agenda. He also expressed serious concern about recent radioactive incidents with transboundary implications, citing the release of ruthenium 106 in 2017, an undefined radioactive explosion near Archangelsk in the Russian Federation in 2019 as well as more ruthenium and cesium detections in 2020. “These incidents obviously point at the problem of one State’s incompliance with international nuclear safety obligations,” he emphasized.
JIANJUN WU (China) noted that IAEA is assisting countries in combating COVID‑19 by leveraging the unique advantages of nuclear energy. That assistance will also be instrumental in ensuring stable energy supply and recovery from the pandemic. As for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty review conference in 2021, he highlighted the need for inclusive sharing of nuclear benefits and expressed support for the Agency’s application of its technical expertise towards capacity‑building in developing countries. He called on the international community to resist the politicization of nuclear energy for peaceful uses, emphasizing IAEA’s constructive role in facilitating the political settlement of nuclear issues and in addressing other hotspot issues.
JEANRAY ATTENTO RINGOR (Philippines) said the IAEA assistance package, which contains equipment and materials for a nuclear-derived technique, has supported his Government’s efforts to address the impact of COVID‑19. Noting that one beneficial application of nuclear energy is the detection of zoonotic diseases that have potentially catastrophic consequences for human health and society, he expressed support for the ZODIAC project, which aims to strengthen capabilities in surveillance, early detection and intervention. In this context, IAEA has become more relevant than ever given the parallel and ever-increasing importance of addressing nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament issues from a technical and scientific perspective.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) stressed that nuclear power is a safe source of energy and essential for States’ enhanced productivity. The Agency ensures the safe use of nuclear energy globally and helps Member States build capacity through membership programmes. Indeed, Bangladesh is building its first nuclear plant with IAEA support, he said, highlighting the Agency’s technical cooperation efforts aimed at food security and health care. Furthermore, IAEA is a main partner for developing countries in building capacity in agriculture, livestock and water management, he said.
SAMSON ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), recalling IAEA’s support for Member States in developing regions in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, said such uses have included cancer control, soil and water management, detection of zoonotic diseases and power generation, among others. He expressed Nigeria’s support for the Agency’s work in nuclear safety and security, as well as its safeguards verification. He also welcomed its report.
TAREQ M. A. M. ALBANAI (Kuwait), stating the COVID‑19 pandemic is an enemy that knows no borders nor respects any race, expressed support for all efforts to combat it, including the ZODIAC initiative. Kuwait will continue to contribute financially. More broadly, he called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respect international treaties and relevant Security Council resolutions, and on Iran to fully cooperate with IAEA in bringing itself in line with international commitments under the Joint Plan of Action. Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East has always been a goal, and he therefore urged Israel to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, as it remains the only country in the region not to do so.
NADEZHDA V. SOKOLOVA (Russian Federation) said the Agency’s work in facilitating the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, along with its safeguards to support and strengthen the mechanisms for non-proliferation, deserve international support. However, IAEA’s approach must remain impartial and objective when it comes to verifications and States cooperating with the Agency should have broad access to nuclear energy. For its part, the Russian Federation provides assistance to the Agency in terms of nuclear and radiation security, safe transport and safe treatment of waste. While IAEA should play a central role as the most representative and technically competent player in the field of nuclear energy, ensuring nuclear security should be the responsibility of States themselves, she said, calling on States to refrain from including artificial items on IAEA’s agenda that are not within its mandate. In response to the representative of Ukraine, she said his comments have no relation to the topic under discussion and are only a demonstration of anti-Russian propaganda.
PETER HORNE (Australia) expressed support for IAEA’s work, adding that it is vital in the context of fresh challenges posed by COVID‑19. Reporting that Australia was co‑chair of the 2019 meeting in Vienna of the Group of Friends for Women in Nuclear, he called for the increased participation of women in this sector. The Agency must be able to conduct its important safeguards work, he emphasized, stressing that the Additional Protocol to the Joint Plan of Action is the contemporary standard for verification and must be universalized. No verification access has been provided for sites in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he observed, urging that country to abandon its nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon programmes, among other steps in this regard.
The Assembly then adopted “L.9” without a vote.
WAEL AL KHALIL (Syria) said the question of nuclear proliferation is key to his country, which acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty before many European Union States. Turkey and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members have nuclear weapons in their territories in flagrant violation of the Treaty, he said, stressing that Israel’s continued expansion of its nuclear capacity — far from international oversight — undermines the creation of the non-proliferation system and the safety and security of States in the Middle East. Citing a possible attack by Israel, sneaking through Syria’s neighbouring country, Turkey, he noted that his Government had allowed IAEA investigators to visit the Deir-Ez-Zor site in 2008, traveling freely and taking samples. Recalling that in 2011, Syria communicated with IAEA to form a plan of action, he expressed regret that the United States and others have exerted pressure to stop it. Israel must cooperate with IAEA; otherwise any further discussion is useless, he added.
Right of Reply
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, called on Iran to act like a normal State and deal with other States and United Nations agencies in a transparent and clear fashion.
The representative of Belarus, responding to comments by her counterpart from Lithuania, said allegations about the safety of her country’s nuclear programme are baseless. Belarus has been open and responsible about its cooperation with IAEA, the European Union and other partners. It is taking all necessary measures regarding the safety and security of its nuclear power plants. Notably, Belarus has voluntarily carried out a stress test according to European Union specifications, she reported, adding that her country’s nuclear power plant is the only one in the region that has undergone verification under these new, stricter standards. A team that included Lithuanian experts did not highlight any deficits in this regard.
The representative of Lithuania, in response to the representative of Belarus, acknowledged that each country has the right to develop nuclear power. However, Lithuania’s concerns are related to the implementation of IAEA recommendations that resulted from a visit to Belarus and expressed concern that infrastructure and other safety measures have not been properly addressed there. He urged the international community to support the highest nuclear and environmental standards for all nuclear facilities around the world.
The representative of Ukraine, recalling that the Assembly recognizes the Russian Federation as an occupying Power in his country, said that nuclear facilities and material in Crimea are the property of Ukraine. Attempts by the Russian Federation to take control of them are a violation of international law. He added that any attempt by that country to extend the jurisdiction of the agreement between IAEA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to include Crimea and Sebastopol are null and void.
The representative of Iran said that his country fully cooperates with IAEA, which - unlike individual States, such as Saudi Arabia — is the only competent authority to determine compliance with relevant agreements. He added that the international community should call on Riyadh to immediately bring the comprehensive safeguards agreement into force, and that halting nuclear assistance to Saudi Arabia is the only way to ease concerns about its nuclear intentions.